Friday, July 07, 2006

Leonards Department Store Subway


Fort Worth, Texas - 1960's

Back of postcard reads:
"World's first private subway - Through The Bluffs of Trinity River to beautiful sky-high Fort Worth, Texas. This is the first privately owned Department Store Subway in the world. Two of its seven Electric Cars are seen passing at the Entrance. Owned by Leonards Department Store, the vast river-level parking lot, subway and cars are free to the public, making the project unique in the annals of Downtown Business, Enterprise and Pleasure."
I wondered if this subway was still going today. Here's what I found on Wikipedia:
"The Tandy Center Subway operated in Fort Worth, Texas from 1963 to 2002. It ran a distance of 0.7 miles (1.1 km) and was, during the period of its operation, the only privately owned subway in the United States.

The subway was originally built by the Leonards Department Store in 1963, connecting the store to its large parking lots on the edge of downtown. Originally known as the Leonards M&O Subway, it consisted of one underground station beneath the store and three stations in the parking lots. The Tandy Corporation purchased the department store, its parking lots, and the subway in 1967. The corporation built its headquarters, the Tandy Center, on the site in 1974. Although it demolished the original store, Tandy retained the subway.

The small subway primarily served patrons visiting the mall at the base of the Tandy Center. However, the anchor tenant moved out in 1996 and the mall declined. The Tandy Center Subway ceased operation on August 30, 2002, thus ending the last privately-owned subway system in the United States."



22 Comments:

Blogger David said...

That bring back memories!

I grew up in a very small town in North Texas. I fondly remember our trips to Fort Worth to visit relatives. A trip to Fort Worth always meant Leonard's and the subway ride!

Fri Jul 07, 06:09:00 AM  
Anonymous didi said...

Tandy Corporation. Isn't this the same people that own Radio Shack and some other stores or is this someone entirely different?

That subway looks sooooooo cute. Although for a second there I had to make sure I was on the right blog.

Fri Jul 07, 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

How COOL is that? A subway! Too bad Tandy let it decline. But then again, they have closed numerous Radio Shack stores. Must be upon hard times.
Scott

Fri Jul 07, 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

Found this:
http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2002/02/25/story2.html

Wrecking ball for the mall. Texas prefers a parking garage to mass transit. Such a shame.
Scott

Fri Jul 07, 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger gugon said...

What a wonderfully obsessive blog! I love it.

Looking forward to more on Monroeville.

Fri Jul 07, 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mitch Glaser said...

I never knew about this privately owned subway that served a department store and mall. What an interesting historical tidbit, Keith! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Fri Jul 07, 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Wow. A mall with its own subway! The mall by my place is building a bowling alley, and I thought that was a big deal. I guess they knew how to do it back then. I wonder what happened to the vehicles.

Fri Jul 07, 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I went to the Tandy Center long ago. I don't remember much about it, but it had an ice rink that was similar to the one at the Houston Galleria. I believe that the Tandy Center's ice surface may have been smaller, however. Escalators crossed from one side to the other above the ice rink. I remember seeing the subway terminal area, too. Unfortunately, we were not sufficiently intrigued to go for a ride and find out where it went.

A quick bit of snooping around finds this photo of the Tandy Center interior.

Sat Jul 08, 03:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for Tandy while they refurbished the mall in the mid 90s. I had to ride that bloody subway ever day. The cars were redone in the 70s and looked awful. The new "Fort Worth Outlet Square" never caught on. Tandy, now RadioShack Corp moved their headquarters across the street and the Tandy Center will become condos...minus the mall. Tandy Center was very popular in the late 70s and for a while in the early 80s.

Sat Jul 08, 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bit more info here, along with a short video of the subway actually operating!

http://world.nycsubway.org/us/fortworth/

Sun Jul 09, 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Yeah, I watched that video, Anonymous #2, neato! (btw, I did include that link in the entry)

Gugon: Thanks and welcome! :)

And thanks to everyone else, too, for the great comments and added info on this one! Fun reading!!

Mon Jul 10, 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child, I rode that Subway every week for grocery shopping with my Mom. My Dad was the produce department manager for years. You would park in the gigantic parking lot.. get on the subway and ride underground into the store.. very cool for a kid in the 1960's... unless of course there was no more seating and you didnt get up immediately to offer your seat to a female who got on late..dear Mother would gently "remind" me..Ouch!

You would do your grocery shopping and checkout and you would recieve a tag with a number. You would then ride the subway back to the parking lot, drive up to the store and present the tag where they would retrieve your groceries and bring them to the car.
Leonards was a magical place for a kid. They had a toy train inside the toy department that kids could ride up and over the aisles.

Wal-Mart didnt have the first "superstore" by any means.. the different floors of Leonards held the grocery department.. the next floor was clothing.. the next, furniture. I miss it greatly.

Sat Nov 25, 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous MIKE RAY HARTMAN said...

MY NAME IS MIKE RAY HARTMAN. I GREW
UP ON THE S/SIDE OF FT.WORTH. I USE
TO GO TO LEONARDS RECORD SHOP. SO,
THERE WERE QUITE A FEW TIMES I TOOK
THE M&O SUBWAY TO GET THERE. WHEN
MY DAUGHTER WAS 9 OR 10,I TOOK HER
THERE,AND WE RODE THE SUBWAY TO THE
TANDY CENTER. I SHARED WITH HER
SOME OF MY MEMORIES. WE HAD A GREAT
TIME. I'M 54 NOW,AND SHE'S A YOUNG
ADULT. I KNOW CHANGES CAN BE HARD
TO TAKE. BUT,AS MUCH OF A TRADI-
TIONALIST AS I CAN BE,I'M SO GRATE-
FUL FOR WHAT THE BASS' HAVE DONE
FOR DOWNTOWN FT.WORTH. UNLIKE MANY
YEARS AGO,DOWNTOWN IS A MUCH SAFER
PLACE TO GO NOW,EVEN AT NIGHT.

Fri Dec 08, 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger harvey said...

That was such a wonderful and efficient use for recycled pcc streetcars and in its infinite wisdonm corporate America and a shortsighted city let it disappear--
Harv

Thu Aug 09, 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger calgal said...

I will always remember the smell of popcorn and cotton candy getting off the M&O Subway and the handicapped people who panhandled at the entrance, particularly a guy with no legs who scooted around on a kind of wheeled platform; it was all very horrifying to me as a child. The subway tunnel was piled high with civil defense supplies during the Cuban Missile Crisis era and for years afterward. Our school books were covered with kraft-paper covers provided by Leonards and illustrated with pictures of the subway. I saved up my babysitting money to buy Beatles records in the record shop. And in the candy section you could buy 5 cents worth of any candy you wanted, weighed out on a scale by women wearing white smocks - my grandmother loved to treat me. Then there was the "miracle mile" of cheap shoes and other back-to-school stuff. It was truly the Walmart of its day! A new museum near the old Montgomery Wards building-turned-loft apartments has lots of memorabilia; I visited it last time I was in Cowtown and it brought back fond memories. Can't remember the address but Google will bring it up..

Mon Sep 03, 12:56:00 AM  
Blogger Phil Ruffin said...

I rode the subway to Leonard's many times. When I was a youngster, my sister and I would ride the Lake Worth Bus downtown on many Saturdays to spend our weekly allowance of 25 or 50 cents. A ride on the subway was a must, at least once each time we visited. The tunnel served as an emergency shelter in the 60's (in case of nuclear attack--SAC headquarters was nearby), and for many years they still had huge cans of water and crackers stored there in view of the subway passengers. After Leonard's gave way to Dillard's, the underground station was spruced up, and one of the elevators (with lots of lights and glass) was used for the movie Logan's Run.
A short walk from the underground station led to the ice rink with diagonal escalators cascading above the ice. I remember being very scared riding on the escalators, high above the ice.
It may have been before the subway, but Leonard's had a huge toyland room in the basement every Christmas that had a train running along the perimeter, just under the ceiling. I remember riding the train, or at least hearing many times about having ridden it as a child.

Wed Oct 01, 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tandy Center was really two office buildings that had a first floor mall and ice rink. My mom worked in that building in the early late 70's/early 80 and I remember riding that subway when I visited her. While most kids who had to visit their parents at work played around with typewrites, white boards, etc to pass the time---I got to ice skate and eat mall pizza! ;-)

Mon Mar 15, 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul Baker said...

Paul Baker As a child, I lived in the Casa Linda area of Dallas from 1957 through 1965. I will always remember our family trips to Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth, which usually included a stop at Leonard's Department Store, especially during the holiday season. Leonard's was the reason I always agreed to take the long trip around Northwest Highway (Loop 12), eventually through Hurst and past Greater Southwest Airport, on to Ft. Worth. I used to think I had imagined the subway train from the parking lot down in the stockyard area. Now I know I wasn't dreaming.

Thu Jul 08, 01:14:00 AM  
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Sat Oct 02, 06:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Malcom Reynolds said...

That is really cool. it is a shame that it declined into disuse. But that is a really cool subway system. You don't typically associate subways with Texas. http://www.american-shuttle.com

Mon Dec 20, 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We shopped at Leonard's at least once a month, purchasing our groceries there for the coming month. I rode the subway as a child and remember the disaster supplies lining the walls. Once I was grown, I again rode the subway to my job downtown. Parking was expensive so Radio Shack kept it open to service it's own employees and all the rest of us that got to park for free until they decided in 2002 to use the parking are and surrounding area to build two new towers. Radio Shack has since sold at least of the two new towers to Tarrant County College, yet they maintain offices there still.

Sat Jun 01, 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original car #1 has been located and is being restored for display at the redeveloped City Place that has replaced the former Leonard's Department Store and Tandy Center Mall at that site. http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/12/5075538/back-on-track-original-leonards.html

Thu Aug 15, 05:25:00 PM  

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